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North Adelaide residents gear up to fight "unfair" flight path

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A failure to spread the burden of aircraft noise more evenly over the city is unfair to residents of one of Adelaide’s most expensive suburbs, Australia’s air traffic control agency has conceded – but changing the longstanding flight path would be “difficult” because of environmental laws.

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InDaily has learned an “action group” of concerned residents has formed to try to persuade federal authorities to reduce the impact on North Adelaide – which has a median house price of $1.1 million, according to recent data from CoreLogic.

Airservices Australia representatives presented to an Adelaide City Council committee meeting last week, arguing that a “process” required by environmental protection legislation made it difficult to change flight paths – which was “not very fair” to those who had been living under them for years.

I have residents who have complained to me that they can’t even have friends around for a barbecue …

“When you do try to change a flight path you’ve got to go through an environmental process under the Environmental Protection, Biodiversity and Conservation Act,” said Air Navigation Services community engagement specialist Neil Hall.

“That makes it very difficult for us to start impacting different communities other than those that are already impacted, which is not very fair on people that are living under existing flight paths.

“Unfortunately it stops moving things around.”

North Ward councillor Phil Martin told InDaily a small “action group” of North Adelaide residents had formed to try to persuade federal authorities to spread the burden of aircraft noise more evenly.

A member of the residents’ action group, North Adelaide dentist and longtime aviator Dr. Joe Verco, declined to comment ahead of a meeting he says he has arranged with air traffic control authorities next week.

Repeated aircraft movements a few hundred metres above their roofs actually wake them and often makes sleeping impossible.

But Councillor Martin said the flight path was causing serious health impacts and that noise pollution should be spread more evenly.

“The principle of sharing the noise… seems to me to be not only practical but in the best interests of all,” he said.

“Some residents have told me that repeated aircraft movements a few hundred metres above their roofs actually wake them and often makes sleeping impossible – this, of course, has serious impacts on their health.

“I [also] have residents who have complained to me that they can’t even have friends around for a barbecue because conversation has to fall silent every 10 minutes as aircraft flies over.”

He said hundreds of flights passed over Modbury, Collinswood, Medindie and North Adelaide each quarter, and that about a dozen aircraft – mostly freight – passed over each night during the Adelaide Airport curfew that applies to passenger aircraft.

Martin stressed that nobody has any problem with emergency services aircraft using the flightpath during the nightly curfew.

Fellow North Ward councillor Sue Clearihan claimed federal authorities were reluctant to consider changing flight paths to more evenly share the burden of noise pollution because they did not want more complaints.

“They don’t wish to deal with opposition from residents who live elsewhere,” she said.

“Not only would it add more work (for air traffic control authorities) … they have to deal with complaints.

“I got woken up early this morning by two flights – noisy flights at 6am.”

Clearihan said she wanted the Federal Government to reopen a noise attenuation subsidy program – which provided residents closest to airports with insulation – to help residents make their houses more sound-proof.

“If you don’t have pitched roofs … if does have an impact on your daily activities,’ she said.

“If you are listening to the radio it interferes with that.”

Clearihan successfully moved a motion in August instructing council staff to apply to the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development “for an ongoing assistance package to enable residents and accommodation businesses to install noise attenuation measures to reduce the noise impacts of aircraft movements over North Adelaide”.

Resident Ann Irwin told InDaily she had lived under the flight path for 14 years, and that she detested the aircraft noise, which sometimes woke her in early in the morning.

“It’s just very irritating that it’s so noisy, especially when I have the house open,” she said.

“Especially early morning – that’s something that I detest … there seem to be a lot that go over.

“They’ve got to go somewhere, I guess – whoever they do fly over, they’re not going to be happy, so it’s neither here nor there, is it?

“I think it’s just something we have to grin and bear.”

However, several other nearby residents told InDaily they had simply got used to the noise after a while.

Aircraft enthusiast Peter Hubbard said he loved living under the flight path.

“It was a fortuitous choice that I chose a house that just happened to be under the flight path,” he said.

“I was in the air force and I’ve got this thing about planes.

“I hear the noise of the plane first – I have an app on my phone and my tablet and my PC that tells me what it is, where it’s going, where it’s from, how high it is; I take photographs; I enjoy it.

“Petrol-heads like cars, and the noise – I like planes.”

A spokesperson for Adelaide Airport declined to comment.

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